B o s N e t - Sept. 14, 1995
After weeks of NATO attacks, the nationalist Serbs have agreed to move their big guns away from Sarajevo, Bosnian and Herzegovina. In return, the nationalist Serbs want a cease-fire and a guarantee that Bosnian government troops will not attack. NATO confirms that allied forces will pause their bombing campaign of Serb targets. The pause, expected to last at least 72 hours, would allow the Serb rebels to begin moving their heavy weapons away from the 20 kilometer exclusion zone around Sarajevo. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke is detailing the offer to the UN commander, Gen. Bernard Janvier, UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb, Croatia. Holbrooke then will meet in Mostar, southwest of Sarajevo, with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. At this point, the cease-fire would affect only the Sarajevo region. A US plan being pushed by Holbrooke is aimed at forging a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of September. A crucial part of the plan is that UN peacekeepers in the city would be replaced by NATO and Russian troops within six months. Those troops would stay in place for 12 months, eventually leaving only a "token" force of about 12,000 observers to monitor the peace. The primary impact of the plan is that it sets an ambitious new target date for peace. In addition, the insertion of Russian troops as a part of the "post-agreement" monitoring plan is something that the Russians have always pushed for, but the US has previously been reluctant to support. It is by no means clear whether the Holbrooke plan specifically mentions the insertion of US ground troops in a "post agreement" Bosnia.
The commander of the Bosnian Army's 7th Corps General Mehmed Alagic was quoted on Thursday as saying his troops have captured Donji Vakuf from separatist Bosnian Serb troops. Sarajevo radio said a Bosnian government flag was hoisted in Donji Vakuf late on Wednesday. The Bosnian government plan had been to use Donji Vakuf as a springboard to re-capture Jajce to the north, but Bosnian Croat militia forces backed by regular Croatian Army troops entered that historic town on Thursday afternoon. Alagic's comments, as reported in Oslobodjenje, indicated there were still Serb soldiers and civilians in Donji Vakuf. "I invite them to make an honorable surrender" he was quoted as saying. Asked what are the further goals of the current military campaign once Donji Vakuf is secured, Alagic replied: "To review my troops in Banja Luka." Besides Donji Vakuf, Government and Croat forces have taken the towns of Drvar, Sipovo and Jajce. Croatian television showed Croat troops in the center of Jajce, saying they had captured the strategic town from the Serbs. Bosnian Government officials say troops from Bihac are on the northern outskirts of Bosanski Petrovac, the last major Serb-held town in Western Bosnia, and Croat forces are reportedly attacking Petrovac from the south. Major-General Mico Lasic, the commander of the action, said his troops seized 2,000 sq. km of Serb territory in a 92-hour campaign. UN officials say the nationalist Serbs have now lost six-percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The capture of Jajce about 75 km (45 miles) to the south opens Banja Luka to direct attack. Earlier Thursday, the UN Security Council called for an immediate halt to "all offensive military activities and hostile acts" in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It came in the wake of powerful offensives by Bosnian government and Croat forces. The US urged the Croats and Muslims to halt their military offensive so as not to damage the current US-led peace drive for Bosnia. The nationalist Bosnian Serbs accused the United States, the United Nations, Croatia and the Bosnian government of spreading disinformation and claimed that Serb forces were repelling attacks successfully.
US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in Moscow on Thursday saying he sees no rift in relations between Russia and the United States. Before meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, Talbott confirmed "some points of difference on tactics." Still, he emphasized common ground, saying that "both countries are determined to try to work together through the Contact Group to try to bring peace. The Contact Group is the coalition of nations working through the United Nations to end fighting in the former Yugoslavia. Russia has issued a series of warnings lately, demanding an end to the air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. Moscow argues that the attacks damage the peace process. In addition, Russia fears NATO's influence in Eastern Europe, not to mention the harm the strike are inflicting on Russia's Orthodox Christian brothers, the Serbs. A brawl in parliament and demonstrations on the streets of Moscow suggest that the government rhetoric could be giving justification to anti-Western nationalist sentiment.
UN aid workers reported 50,000 Serb refugees fleeing the area. Serb media gave out conflicting information, denying serious territorial losses on the one hand but admitting a major refugee wave on the other. A television reporter said by satellite phone that tens of thousands of Serb refugees were heading towards Banja Luka. He said refugees were fleeing from the towns of Jajce, Kljuc, Petrovac and Mrkonjic Grad. Banja Luka was without electricity or television broadcasts and a radio relay station was knocked out in the area by NATO's latest air attacks on Serb positions on Wednesday.
Croatian foreign minister Mate Granic says his country is willing to accept a negotiated transition arrangement to reintegrate Serbian-occupied Eastern Slavonia under Croatian government control. Serbia has not accepted a UN plan for a transition period leading to Croatian control. Foreign minister Granic says Croatia will accept transition arrangements for one year in Eastern Slavonia. Serbia calls for three or four years of UN control. While negotiations on the points of agreement could last for years, Croatia has threatened to take the area by force if the peace process erodes or if a satisfactory solution is not found.